Author: Andy Weir
Page Count: 369 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
Tone: Humorous, Suspenseful, Fast-paced
Mark Watney was nearly killed by a dust storm on Mars and was abandoned by his crew who thought him dead. Now he’s all alone with no way of letting Earth know he’s alive, which doesn’t matter because his supplies would run out before they’d get there. Either way, the environment or human error will likely kill him first. Not giving in, Mark works to survive, battling obstacle after obstacle, but will it be enough?
These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.
Questions composed by MPPL Staff
1. Whether you personally liked the novel or not it definitely resonated with a lot of people. Who do you think was Weir’s intended audience?
2. Why do you think the core audience grew to include a more mainstream base of readers? In what ways does it stay true to its genre base? How does it swerve away from “typical” science fiction?
3. Did the humor work for you?
4. How did you respond to all scientific detail?
5. When do you think this story takes place? Does the date matter?
6. Andy Weir, painted quite a visual picture of Mars, what are your thoughts? Any interest in going?
7. Delicately put, the very first line in the novel was “I’m pretty much screwed.” How did that set a tone for you?
8. What characteristics did Mark possess that you think helped to save his life? Was one trait more important than the others?
9. What do you think kept him sane? Or, how was he able to maintain his sanity?
10. While reading the story, did you think Mark would survive or not?
11. Do you think Mark thought he would survive?
12. Why do you think you were rooting for Mark to survive (and if you weren’t why not)?
13. Thanks to the author, we feel we know Watney and most of us are rooting for him, regardless of the expense and the risk that the Chinese probe will never be launched. Would you have felt the same about the rescue effort if we didn’t know Watney so well?
14. What were your thoughts the first time Mark traveled away from Hab? Can you imagine what it would be like all alone on Mars?
15. Were there any characters, outside of Mark, that you really liked or disliked?
16. When mission control realized Mark was alive, they decided not to tell the Ares 3 crew. What do you think about that decision?
17. When the crew learned that Mark was alive the crew had very different reactions. Most of the crew was ecstatic but Lewis was upset. What did you think of her reaction?
18. Teddy did not want to risk the lives of the crew and felt the crew was, too emotionally involved to make the decision about whether or not to rescue Mark. What do you think about this?
19. Why do you think the crew decided to go back for Mark? The Hermes would add 533 more days to its mission to save Mark. What would you do?
20. Commander Lewis picked Beth Johansen to be the survivor if anything happened to the resupply probe. What did you think of this cannabilism arc in the storyline? What if it was you they picked to survive? (Don’t forget Johansen was having a relationship with Beck!)
21. Were you surprised that the Chinese government would be willing to help NASA?
22. Read this passage on page 254. Zho Tao said in a conversation with Venkat, “In the end, we built a beautiful probe. The largest, sturdiest, unmanned probe in history. And now it’s sitting in a warehouse. It’ll never fly”…”It could have been a lasting legacy of scientific research. Now it’s a delivery run…this operation is a net loss for mankind’s knowledge” What are your thoughts on this passage?
23. Who was ultimately responsible for saving Mark Watney’s life? (You can only choose one person!)
24. How would you have ended the novel?
25. Where do you see Watney’s life going?
26. Would you be open to reading the author’s next book?
Schmoop analysis on The Martian
Lit Lovers’ reading guide
Book and movie differences article by Tech Times
Slate’s Audio Book Club discussion on The Martian (audio)
Reddit Q&A with Andy Weir
“Nine Real Technologies in The Martian“ by NASA
Video of Andy Weir discussing his career
The Martian themed party ideas
Marsbound by Joe Haldeman
Redshirts by John Scalzi
The Explorer by James Smythe
Check out the reading map we created for more suggestions!